The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court on Monday permitted the Industries Secretary or those delegated by him to grant permission for use of excavators, not more than two, in each of the sand quarrying sites in rivers.

A Division Bench, comprising Justices R. Banumathi and S. Nagamuthu, passed the interim order on a petition by the State government seeking to modify the court's order of December 2 last year insofar as it related to constituting a State-level-monitoring committee and the use of machinery under the Tamil Nadu Minor Mineral Concession Rules (TNMMCR.)

The Bench said that the competent authority should pass a written order for using excavators and indicating the numbers to be used. It posted the matter for further hearing on January 18. Its order would be in force till that date. Excavators should not be used after 7 p.m. and before 6 a.m. The order would not apply to the Tamiraparani river.

In its order last month, the Madurai Bench, following a submission by the Advocate-General, P.S. Raman, constituted a committee for monitoring sand quarrying in all rivers in the State.

In his present affidavit, Industries Secretary Rajeev Ranjan stated that the earlier direction, namely to constitute a monitoring committee for all rivers, may not be necessary since various administrative steps had been taken to curb illicit quarrying and transportation of sand.

To curb the menace, the government had set up various committees to take up periodical review and also appropriate follow-up action. It was aware that the proviso clause under Rule 36 A (6) of the TNMMCR enabling the Industries Secretary or any other authority or officer as may be authorised by him to grant permission for use of machinery that would not be detrimental to ecology should be used sparingly, judiciously with utmost caution, on a case-by-case basis, and considering other related issues.

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